Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or leg. CRPS usually develops after an injury, surgery, stroke, or heart attack. The pain is disproportionate to the severity of the initial injury.
- CRPS is rare and its cause is not clearly understood. Treatment is most effective when started early. In such cases, improvement and even remission is possible.
The signs and symptoms of CRPS include:
- Persistent burning or stabbing pain, usually in the arm, leg, hand, or foot
- Sensitivity to touch or cold
- Swelling of the painful area
- Changes in skin temperature – alternating sweat and cold
- Changes in skin color range from white and blotchy to red or blue
- Changes in the texture of the skin, which can become tender, thin, or shiny in the affected area
- Changes in hair and nail growth
- Stiffness, swelling, and joint damage
- Muscle spasms, tremors, weakness and loss (atrophy)
- Decreased ability to move the affected part of the body
The cause of CRPS is not fully understood. It is believed to be caused by an injury or defect in the peripheral and central nervous systems. CRPS usually occurs as a result of trauma or injury.
CRPS comes in two types, with similar signs and symptoms but different causes:
- Type 1. Also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), this type occurs after an illness or injury that did not directly damage the nerves in the affected limb. About 90% of people with CRPS have type 1.
- Type 2. Formerly known as causalgia, this type has symptoms similar to type 1. However, type 2 CRPS occurs after separate nerve damage.
These steps can help you reduce your risk of developing CRPS:
- Take vitamin C after a broken wrist. Studies have shown that people who take high doses of vitamin C after a broken wrist may have a lower risk of CRPS than people who didn’t take vitamin C.
- Early mobilization after a stroke. Some research suggests that people who stand up and walk around soon after a stroke (early mobilization) reduce their risk of developing CRPS.